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Truth and politics in Late Medieval Arabic historiography : the formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438)

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MMS-II (The Mamlukisation of the Mamluk Sultanate II: historiography, political order and state formation in fifteenth-century Egypt and Syria)
Abstract
Throughout al-Ashraf Barsbāy’s reign as sultan of Mamluk Egypt and Syria (1422‒1438), one of the main performers and representatives of his expand- ing authority and power was the amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438). Defeated in the power struggle that followed sultan Barsbāy’s death, Qurqumās’ career ended dramatically in his execution by order of the new sultan, al-Zahir Jaqmaq (r. 1438‒1453). Whereas this amir’s rich case received substantial attention from the era’s leading Egyptian historiographers, it has so far hardly attracted any interest in modern scholarship. This article aims to remedy this, but not simply in order to pursue some detailed reconstruction of Qurqumās’ life story. It rather wishes to explore this story as a case study towards a better understanding of how extant historiographical narratives that mattered so much to Qurqumās’ contemporaries may be read in analytically more meaningful ways than traditional approaches have so far allowed for. The article therefore proposes and explores a two-tiered ‒ social and cultural ‒ method of reading contemporary historical texts as politically engaged narrative claims to historical truth. It is demonstrated how across a diverse set of narrative texts the high-profile career of the amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī appears as functionally constructed around the messy relational realities of the administration of sultan Barsbāy’s justice and the performance of his warfare in Egypt, Syria, the Hijaz and Eastern Anatolia. It is furthermore argued that in the historiographical record of these messy realities Qurqumās’ career is made to appear through the semantics of justice and sover- eignty as an agent of the legitimate and truthful political order of the formation of sultan Barsbāy’s state, but only for as long as that state existed.
Keywords
Arabic historiography, state formation, Mamluk Sultanate, al-Malik al-Ashraf Barsbāy, Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī, narrative construction, justice, warfare, political order, truth politics

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MLA
Van Steenbergen, Jo, and Stijn Van Nieuwenhuyse. “Truth and Politics in Late Medieval Arabic Historiography : the Formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the Narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438).” ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS 95.1 (2018): 147–188. Print.
APA
Van Steenbergen, J., & Van Nieuwenhuyse, S. (2018). Truth and politics in Late Medieval Arabic historiography : the formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438). ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS, 95(1), 147–188.
Chicago author-date
Van Steenbergen, Jo, and Stijn Van Nieuwenhuyse. 2018. “Truth and Politics in Late Medieval Arabic Historiography : the Formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the Narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438).” Islam-zeitschrift Fur Geschichte Und Kultur Des Islamischen Orients 95 (1): 147–188.
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Van Steenbergen, Jo, and Stijn Van Nieuwenhuyse. 2018. “Truth and Politics in Late Medieval Arabic Historiography : the Formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the Narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438).” Islam-zeitschrift Fur Geschichte Und Kultur Des Islamischen Orients 95 (1): 147–188.
Vancouver
1.
Van Steenbergen J, Van Nieuwenhuyse S. Truth and politics in Late Medieval Arabic historiography : the formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438). ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS. De Gruyter; 2018;95(1):147–88.
IEEE
[1]
J. Van Steenbergen and S. Van Nieuwenhuyse, “Truth and politics in Late Medieval Arabic historiography : the formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438),” ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS, vol. 95, no. 1, pp. 147–188, 2018.
@article{8551698,
  abstract     = {Throughout al-Ashraf Barsbāy’s reign as sultan of Mamluk Egypt and Syria (1422‒1438), one of the main performers and representatives of his expand- ing authority and power was the amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438). Defeated in the power struggle that followed sultan Barsbāy’s death, Qurqumās’ career ended dramatically in his execution by order of the new sultan, al-Zahir Jaqmaq (r. 1438‒1453). Whereas this amir’s rich case received substantial attention from the era’s leading Egyptian historiographers, it has so far hardly attracted any interest in modern scholarship. This article aims to remedy this, but not simply in order to pursue some detailed reconstruction of Qurqumās’ life story. It rather wishes to explore this story as a case study towards a better understanding of how extant historiographical narratives that mattered so much to Qurqumās’ contemporaries may be read in analytically more meaningful ways than traditional approaches have so far allowed for. The article therefore proposes and explores a two-tiered ‒ social and cultural ‒ method of reading contemporary historical texts as politically engaged narrative claims to historical truth. It is demonstrated how across a diverse set of narrative texts the high-profile career of the amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī appears as functionally constructed around the messy relational realities of the administration of sultan Barsbāy’s justice and the performance of his warfare in Egypt, Syria, the Hijaz and Eastern Anatolia. It is furthermore argued that in the historiographical record of these messy realities Qurqumās’ career is made to appear through the semantics of justice and sover- eignty as an agent of the legitimate and truthful political order of the formation of sultan Barsbāy’s state, but only for as long as that state existed.},
  author       = {Van Steenbergen, Jo and Van Nieuwenhuyse, Stijn},
  issn         = {1613-0928},
  journal      = {ISLAM-ZEITSCHRIFT FUR GESCHICHTE UND KULTUR DES ISLAMISCHEN ORIENTS},
  keywords     = {Arabic historiography,state formation,Mamluk Sultanate,al-Malik al-Ashraf Barsbāy,Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī,narrative construction,justice,warfare,political order,truth politics},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {147--188},
  publisher    = {De Gruyter},
  title        = {Truth and politics in Late Medieval Arabic historiography : the formation of Sultan Barsbāy’s State (1422‒1438) and the narratives of the Amir Qurqumās al-Shaʿbānī (d. 1438)},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/islam-2018-0006},
  volume       = {95},
  year         = {2018},
}

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